Lost World – Patricia Melo

I mentioned on Saturday that I was slightly annoyed at myself for not having read any Brazilian fiction as I had resolved to back at the start of January. So now being able to read books at a whim I decided then and there to grab the opportunity. ‘Lost World’ by Patricia Melo actually arrived during the week and was a surprise so I thought I would give it a whirl. Melo is a well know author in Brazil (even The Converted One seemed impressed) and so it seemed a good place to start my fictional Brazilian journey.

Lost World is a story of a father trying to find his daughter, only this is no typical father. Maiquel is an ex-contract killer who has been a fugitive for ten years. Now Brazil is a big city and from this book it seems like there are plenty of criminals to go around and so being a fugitive isn’t as hard as you would think. Maiquel proves this as he goes to the funeral of his aunty in broad daylight as the book opens. In fact his aunt’s death and his inheritance is what make him decide its time to find his daughter.

Finding Samantha doesn’t prove easy however, and not just because he is a wanted man. His ex-girlfriend Erica left him when she found out he was a contract killer and ran off with his daughter and an evangelical pastor and all three vanished. Maiquel has to deal with con-men, killers and detectives in order to pick up the tail of his lost daughter which takes him on a journey of treachery, dead ends and danger through the whole of Brazil and also Bolivia.

It’s an interesting read especially as Maiquel is such a complex character. I didn’t think I would come to like someone who is trained to kill and yet I ended up really wanting him to succeed regardless of what he did in order to try and get his daughter back. A complex character who likes women but won’t become attached, feels no guilt over pulling a trigger and yet rescues and nurses a dog he hits in the street. He is both vile and likeable all at once and makes for a compelling (and highly unreliable) narrator.

“People dying every day, run over, from cancer, getting shot in the face. You wait in line, without knowing, and then your number comes up. That’s what I believe. In the line. I also believe that I could be recognised out in the street, at anytime. Hey, aren’t you Maiquel, the hired killer? The one who’s better than barbed wire? Better than trenches? Better than armoured doors? The one who killed Santana? The one who riddled with bullets the belly of Dr Carvalho, that son of a bitch of a dentist? No one remembered about the Man of the Year anymore. For services to the community. Or the scum I took off the streets, everybody had forgot that. Now and then people remembered me, but it was always in some account about dangerous killers. Wanted, they said. One of the most wanted.”

Melo’s writing is quite blunt with short sentences that get you to the point, she also doesn’t hold back on anything and in some ways I had to occasionally remind myself this was written by a woman. I don’t mean that in a sexist way, it’s just the style was quite masculine. I liked the thrill of the book though it wasn’t a thriller exactly and it isn’t crime fiction, nor would I label it an adventure. In fact I would be hard pushed to label this book which is another reason why I think I liked it so much, it was different and comes recommended if you want a different read and like crime fiction/thrillers or literary fiction with quite a pace. I also found out after reading it this is actually a belated sequel to ‘The Killer’ which of course I now want to read!

This was a great start off for Brazilian reading for me, though I have read Heliopolis I am not counting it as it was read last year. In fact it was quite perfect as I was taken through the whole of Brazil including the all important state of Mato Grosso and Cuiaba where The Converted One is from, as well as the south of Brazil where roots will be being laid in 2011.

Have you read any Melo? What fiction from Brazil have you read and what would you recommend? Which narrators have you liked in fiction that you really shouldn’t have but couldn’t help it?


Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, Patricia Melo, Review

20 responses to “Lost World – Patricia Melo

  1. Hello there, Simon! Unfortunately, I haven’t sampled any work of fiction from a Brazilian author. This sounds like a good read though, as it features a vile but likeable narrator.

    As for the narrator who I really liked despite his flaws, I can think of only one — Riccardo Molteni of Alberto Moravia’s wonderful novel, Contempt. Molteni is so egotistical, but his voice throughout the novel is one that had my attention throughout.

    • Sadly I dont have Contempt as you have now made me want to read that Peter. I do have Moravia’s The Women of Rome and Two Boys (or is it Two Adolescents) in the TBR though so I will push them further up for reading. My italian friend Giorgia raves about The Women of Rome.

      This book is perfect if you want a likeable unlikeable character.

  2. I don’t think I have ever read a Brazilian author! I am intrigued with the idea of actually liking a character that is a hit man. I’ve read books (a series that I cannot recall) that are about an assassin whom I like, and I think it takes a good writer to endear you to him.

    • I so, so, so shouldnt have liked Maiquel but I couldnt help it and sometimes he even had me laughing at his wrong doings (mind you I laughed at a very unfortunate scene in Pulp Fiction so think I am just a bit odd like that) and I want to read more about him in The Killer so I think Melo has definitley worked for me.

  3. This sounds good… and in a way the hard-boiled nature of it reminds me of Massimo Carlotto’s unlicensed private investigator, Alligator. See my review here: http://kimbofo.typepad.com/readingmatters/authors_massimo_carlotto/

    Not sure I’ve ever read any Brazilian fiction… I do want to read Heliopolis at some point though…

    • I got all excited then as I had a book called Alligator on the TBR and then realised you said character, dagnamit! I am keen to read a lot more characters like Maiquel, something about a great baddie or a bad guy you can like really interests me.

      I liked Heliopolis… The Converted One thought it was fantastic if a little of a fantastical version of Brazil, no Melo has been read by The Converted One… yet its on their bedside table though!

  4. (I’m wondering if wordpress ate up my comment..) I was just saying how I love complex characters, and this book really does seem to interest me now.

    About Brazilian books/authors, I don’t think I’ve read any. I haven’t even tried Paulo Coelho! Have you?

    • I am wondering if blogs are a bit rogue at the moment Michelle as it seems very comment quiet around the whole blogosphere today… I wonder if something is in the air?

      Is Paulo Coelho brazilian… well strike me down with a feather. I gave some of his away in my recent cull – aaarrrrgggghhhh.

      • Oh phew… It was in one of the bags to go to the charity shop next time I passed… I just did a crazed dash through the bags!!!

      • Haha, I know that response. I had no idea he was Brazilian until a Brazilian friend told me! Glad you managed to ‘save’ him from your bag. What books of his do you have?

    • Well the only savable one that hasnt been given away (some weren’t so lucky and am a bit annoyed) was The Alchemist. The Converted One has just said ‘of course Coelho is Brazilian’ like I am incredibly stupid… erm no further comment on that last point haha.

      • Well, they do say that The Alchemist is one of his best, so maybe you’re in for a treat? I’ve got that sitting on my bookshelf, collected it from the library a while back. I should really get to it soon.

        And I just found out that Lost World is actually the second book in the Maiquel series, the first one called The Killer, published way back in 1995.

  5. Pingback: … And Books Received « Savidge Reads

  6. Marina

    I really enjoyed reading ‘Dona Flor and her two husbands’ by Jorge Amado, a humorous story about a woman caught between two husbands, one live one dead. It’s a while since I read it but the colourful exotic world that Amado has described in this book is still with me. I’m planning to revisit it soon by reading ‘Gabriella, clove and cinnamon’ another of the books for which this author is well known.

    • Oooh thank you for this recommend Marina as I am really keen to try and get hold of as many Brazilian works of fiction as I can this year and Dona Flor sounds marvellous. I will be asking for these for my birthday I think.

  7. As to narrators that I “really shouldn’t have but couldn’t help” liking? Well, perhaps not liked, exactly, but empathized with: I am regularly and consistently amazed by the ability of Barbara Gowdy to pull me towards characters that I really don’t want to be close to in any way. I’m thinking especially of books like Mister Sandman, Helpless, her short stories in We Who So Seldom Look on Love; she pulls me in every time, squirming and squinting, if not exactly kicking and screaming. Thanks for the recommendations herein!

  8. Eva

    This sounds so interesting! I’m always excited to find a new Brazilian authors too. 😀

  9. I just reviewed Melo’s book and I’m afraid it had the complete opposite effect on me. I love South American fiction, but this one just wasn’t up to scratch. Your review has made me decide to give it another try though. I really wanna like this one!

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